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Monday, 17 September, 2001, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Tilting bridge opens eye to the world
The bridge takes four minutes to open
The world's first rotating bridge, which features a radical engineering design, has opened to the public.

About 30,000 people enjoyed the chance to walk or cycle over the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, which straddles the River Tyne in north-east England.

Engineers have been working on the futuristic "blinking eye" structure since it was floated up the river into position in November 2000.

The 22m bridge turns on pivots on both sides of the river, and is the first opening bridge to be built on the Tyne in 134 years.

Pat Engleby
Pat Engleby: "Tremendous experience"
Pat Engleby was one of the first people to try out the crossing.

She said: "It was a tremendous experience."

The first 500 people to go across the bridge were each given a special commemorative medal.

To mark the historic occasion a programme of weekend events were held, including musical concerts and the switching on of the bridge's high-tech computerised lighting system.

A new athletics event was also held, the Great North Mile, run over a route which crossed the new bridge and the Victorian swing bridge which also crosses the River Tyne.

'Spectacular success'

George Gill, leader of Gateshead Council, told BBC News Online: "The weekend has been a spectacular success, and the musical and sporting events were a fitting tribute to the new bridge.

"The lighting is superb and really impressed the crowds."

The design of the structure allows it to rotate in an "eye blinking" movement to allow boats to pass underneath.

It is thought the Gateshead crossing, which has the same 25-metre clearance as the Tyne Bridge, will open at least 200 times a year.

The footbridge, which weighs more than 850 tonnes, is powered by eight electric motors.

Culture capital

Its design means it needs just 3.60 worth of electricity to open once.

The bridge, which takes four minutes to open fully, has already attracted world-wide attention for its unique design.

It links Newcastle Quayside with the new arts and leisure developments on Gateshead Quays.

Mr Gill said the bridge could only enhance the new arts and cultural developments opening on the quayside.

Gateshead is jointly bidding with Newcastle to become European Capital of Culture 2008.

The BBC's Catherine Marston
"Everyone knew they were helping to make history"
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